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Reality & Illusion in the 2012 Discussion

by John Major Jenkins


There are many misconcep-tions about 2012 and the Maya world. One is that the Maya predicted doomsday in 2012. They didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that "2012 is a hoax." We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. In my 25 years of investigating the Maya world, I’ve uncovered evidence for what the ancient Maya thought about 2012. And it is impressive, inspiring, revolutionary.

Is December 21, 2012 just a date in a calendar? Is there any deeper, hidden meaning within 2012? The challenge has been to reconstruct lost or forgotten deeper meanings in the Maya calendar. The cycle ending date of 2012 has been an enigma. But now, new light is being shed on the hidden or lost knowledge of 2012.

The 2012 date comes from the Long Count calendar. We can call it the "2012 calendar." This calendar system is first found on carved monuments dated to the 1st century BC. The early Maya archaeological site called Izapa was very important in the formulation of the 2012 calendar. I have visited, studied, and performed field work at this site since 1990. It is an amazing site with over 60 carved monuments and many astronomical orientations. The Maya civilization adopted the insights formulated at Izapa. Those insights included a sophisticated astronomical science and profound spiritual teachings. The astronomy points to a rare alignment between the sun and our Milky Way galaxy in the years around 2012 — the solstice sun at the cosmic Crossroads of the Milky Way and the ecliptic. And the spiritual teachings in the Maya Creation Myth identify why there is a crisis in the modern world and what we can do about it. This reconstruction was laid out in my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012.

How can we, and our modern culture, benefit from studying Maya teachings? Maya spiritual teachings contain universal insights and therefore can benefit human beings at any time. Universal principles are found in all of the world’s great religions. The Maya had a wonderful insight that integrated astronomy and spiritual teachings. The rare astronomical alignment that the Maya identified, called the "galactic alignment," is REAL astronomy. However, it is greatly misunderstood and even NASA scientists do not report it accurately. My 2002 book, Galactic Alignment, carefully defined the alignment and its parameters, and discussed the various questions associated with it.

Not only NASA, but the entire corporate media structure seems unwilling or unable to report the basic facts about 2012 and Maya teachings. I know, because I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times and only a small smattering of those interviews get even close. The media likes to report negative and dramatic things and maintains a large bias about the Maya. One reason, I believe, is that for a long time the Native Americans have been stereotyped. The Manifest Destiny policy of the United States government in the 1800’s required that the Native Americans be portrayed as savages, less than human. Their extermination assured the westward expansion of American colonists. A similar attitude toward the Maya existed in Mexico and Central American. I believe this attitude still exists, and the ancient Maya genius is a threat to the modern world. Therefore, evidence for ancient Maya genius is treated by the mainstream media with contempt.

Another media refrain is "the Maya calendar ends in 2012." This is completely misleading, and early on in my work I realized that language needs to be used very carefully. The Maya believe in time cycles. A large time cycle, called the 13-Baktun cycle, ends on December 21, 2012. This is a period of 5,125.36 years, or 1,872,000 days. The ancient Maya who created the 2012 calendar did not believe that a cataclysm would occur in 2012. For them, cycle endings are always about renewal.

I am frequently asked if Hollywood portrayals of the Maya and 2012, which is some kind of apocalypse porn managed by doomsday pimps, is harmful to people. Well, it does mislead and misinform people. It makes the 2012 topic trivial or a joke. It tells people that 2012 is nothing but a science fiction movie. I don’t think it is necessarily "harmful" to adults — adults can handle scary films and many people like scary films. But this treatment of 2012 is inaccurate and the doomsday hype about 2012 can negatively effect children. I have received emails and letters from parents who say their child is afraid the world is going to end in 2012. I tell them that Hollywood is making a fictional story, and the Maya didn’t believe the world would end in 2012. In November of 2009 I was invited to do press conferences for the big Hollywood movie. I decided to do it to try to correct the misconceptions about doomsday. Despite doing interviews on the red carpet with all the major media outlets, only one interview I did was ever broadcast: http://www.youtube.com/user/mandalay37.

A little background on my journey and life-work. In 1986, I was 22 years old and decided to visit the Maya temples and ancient cities in Mexico and Central America. I worked jobs for a year and saved up a little money. Then I traveled for four months. I became fascinated with the Maya, and made friends among the Quiché Maya people living in the highlands of Guatemala. I returned many times over the years. I helped rebuild a school in 1990 and delivered relief supplies in 1994. More recently I helped co-found a non-profit agency called The Maya Conservancy, and we are engaged in projects with the Maya aj-kij, the spiritual guides in highland Guatemala.

Since 1989, I have written sixteen books on Mayan culture, cosmology, 2012, and the calendar. My most recent book, The 2012 Story, provides a grand summary of all the previous work. It also discusses many misconceptions about 2012, many of which come from the popular marketplace, where writers exploit the doomsday idea or offer their own systems which are not based on the facts of the Maya calendar. In addition, there are many misconceptions about 2012 among professional Maya scholars, who for many years did not treat 2012 seriously. I advocate clarity and discernment, and therefore offer critiques of these misconceptions. Now, there is new evidence that confirms the astronomy and the ideology of "transformation and renewal" that my work has sought to explain since the early 1990s. I discuss this new evidence in the book — it involves a hieroglyphic inscription from a Classic Period Maya site (7th –century AD) called Tortuguero. This monument contains the 2012 date! It helps us understand what the ancient Maya thought about 2012.

In my work to reconstruct why the Maya chose December 21, 2012 to end a big cycle in their calendar, the "galactic Alignment" is featured. It is important to be clear on what this is. First, the Galactic Alignment is real astronomy. It was calculated by astronomers Jean Meeus and Patrick Wallace. The earth wobbles very slowly on its axis. From the viewpoint of skywatchers on earth, this appears as a slow shifting of the position of the sun on the equinoxes and solstices. The phenomenon is called "the precession of the equinoxes." The slow shifting of the position of the sun can be measured against background features, such as stars or the bright band of the Milky Way. For thousands of years, the celestial position of the sun on the December solstice has been slowly shifting toward the bright band of the Milky Way. In the years around 2012, the solstice sun will align with the midline of the Milky Way, called "the galactic equator." It is a very slow process, but the alignment range can be calculated as occurring between 1980 AD and 2016 AD, a 36-year range as I have suggested. Notice that the cycle ending date is a solstice: December 21, 2012. My work demonstrates that the Maya were intending to point to this alignment with their 2012 calendar.

The other component of my work, which in Maya thinking actually goes hand-in-hand with the galactic alignment astronomy, is the ideology or spiritual teachings connected to 2012. The Maya Creation Myth, known as the Popol Vuh, contains a World Age doctrine and spiritual teachings for cycle endings (such as 2012). The Maya believe that human beings have an individual ego, but we have to realize that it is connected into the whole. In the Creation Myth, the ego is portrayed by the bird deity called Seven Macaw. He squawks loudly and magnifies himself. He represents the selfish ego, who cannot see beyond his own nose. The "whole consciousness" is represented by One Hunahpu, the father of the Hero Twins who gets reborn at the end of the Creation Myth (at the cycle ending in 2012). The teachings involve how to place ego into right relationship with the whole (the "big picture"). This wisdom teaches about the interdependence of all things. The key is to sacrifice or surrender the illusions that feed Seven Macaw, the selfish ego. The fire ceremonies performed by the Maya are sacred events in which illusions can be thrown into the transformative fire. From this act, a person can then awaken to an awareness of things beyond the ego, and how they are related to a larger picture involving the interdependence of all beings. A renewal of life occurs.

We are now a very short time away from the year 2012. As always, I advocate honoring and respecting authentic Maya tradition, and practicing clarity and discernment. A mass of illusions, fears, doomsday projections, and marketing ploys are being attached to 2012. If we can see past these phantoms, we can understand what 2012 truly meant to the ancient Maya. Free online essays detailing the latest breakthroughs can be found at http://thecenterfor2012studies.com (The Center for 2012 Studies). The 2012 Story book (2009) is a one-stop guide to all-things-2012. Recently, I saw the need to render the hieroglyphic texts of Tortuguero, which tell us so much about Lord Jaguar and why he referenced 2012, into a readable composite form. There are six texts from Tortuguero which are relevant. My composite rendering is called "Lord Jaguar’s 2012 Inscriptions" and it is now available with an introduction and a commentary: http://Alignment2012.com/LJ-booklet.html.

John Major Jenkins is a pioneering voice in the 2012 discussion with over twenty years of experience defining and debating the issues. Informed by innovative field work at archaeological sites and inspired by living and working among the Highland Maya, Jenkins’ comprehensive work covers media misconceptions, assessments of 2012 theories, consciousness studies, Maya shamanism, archaeoastronomical research, Perennial Philosophy, academic misconceptions, and the crisis of sustainability faced in the modern world. His unprecedented "galactic alignment theory" is now receiving new support from recent discoveries in the Maya inscriptions. While integrating the scientific and spiritual viewpoints, Jenkins honors contemporary calendar Maya tradition and the ancient Maya vision of a unified cosmos. His work has been featured since 1998 in media produced by ABC Nightline, The U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, The History Channel, and NBC’s SyFy Channel. Since the 1980s John’s articles have appeared in many magazines, newspapers, websites, and book anthologies, including: The Mystery of 2012 (2007), You Are Still Being Lied To (2009), Towards 2012 (2008). His best known books are Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998), Galactic Alignment (2002), Unlocking the Secrets of 2012, (3-CD audio, 2007), and The 2012 Story (2009). His books have been translated into twelve languages. His work appeared in a feature profile in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, July 2007.


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